Wiley sues BitTorrent sharers, gives SCOTUS another shot at first sale precedent
April 20, 2012 | 1:48 am
TorrentFreak reports that For-Dummies publisher John Wiley & Sons has moved to file suit against several BitTorrent users who allegedly shared its books online. The majority of BitTorrent sharers to whom it sent nastygrams capitulated with $750 settlements, However, four users have not:
New York residents Jeff Ng, Ralph Mohr, Robert Carpenter and Xiaoshu Chen are no longer anonymous Does. Wiley is proceeding to call for a full jury trial against the quartet in which they will face accusations of copyright infringement and up to $150,000 in penalties for each offense.
TorrentFreak writes that if this case goes to trial, it will mark “the first time that actual evidence against BitTorrent infringers is tested in court.” The main piece of evidence is an IP address, after all, which is somewhat shaky when it comes to implicating a specific person. But on the other hand, it’s possible Wiley’s lawyers might just be using this to put pressure on the four to settle rather than face a lengthy, costly trial. If it does go to trial, undoubtedly Wiley will spend more on legal fees than it took in on from all the other settlements put together. (Found via the BBC, via the Bookseller.)
Interestingly enough, Wiley has been involved in another copyright case of interest lately, not necessarily directly e-book related but involving the first sale doctrine which has been of strong interest to e-book fans. Wiley sued a college student entrepreneur who imported textbooks from overseas and sold them online, and a court awarded Wiley $600,000 in damages. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the student’s appeal.
The case is particularly important because it offers the court a second chance to set a precedent after it deadlocked on the Omega vs. Costco first sale case in 2010 over copyright applied to a logo on designer watches: does first sale apply to goods that are purchased overseas, or not? As Elena Kagan, the justice who recused herself from that case, will be fully involved in this one, this will break the tie. However, as Kagan had sided with Omega in that fight, it seems doubtful the ruling will bode well for first sale unless the student’s lawyers can learn from Costco’s failure.